In 2020, Kaspersky intercepted 5.8 million malware threats disguised as popular PC games.

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Cybercriminals find gamers to be an appealing target.

One of the reasons we have a chip and component shortage is because more people want to play games now than before the outbreak. However, this shift in consumer behaviour has created an incentive for cybercriminals to produce malware that looks like popular PC and mobile games in order to steal your data and download additional malware onto your device.

The epidemic has had a significant impact on how we use the Internet, with many more people seeking refuge during lockdowns by engaging in streaming and gaming activities. As a result, both businesses grew steadily, albeit the hardware industry battled to keep up with demand for newer consoles, CPUs, graphics cards, displays, and gaming accessories.

According to an analysis made by antivirus firm Kaspersky, this also presented an opportunity for malicious actors to take advantage of less tech-savvy people who joined the digital entertainment train. To get an idea about the scale of the problem, the company says it has detected and blocked more than 5.8 million attacks in the past nine months from malware and other forms of unwanted software disguised as popular PC and mobile games.

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Researchers examined malware disguised as one of the top 24 PC games and the top ten mobile titles and discovered that PC-related threat detections increased 66 percent between the first and second quarters of 2020, reaching nearly 2.5 million detections globally. As the globe began to reopen and people began to return to outdoor activities to some extent, the number of attacks fell to little less than 637,000 this year.

The scenario on mobile originally paralleled that on PC, with an 185 percent increase in those afflicted by malicious software masquerading as games. However, as the lockdowns were lifted the number of people spending time on their phones dropped less than 10 percent when compared to the onset of the pandemic, so mobile threats remained just as active as before.

Game Users Detections Files
Minecraft 184,887 3,010,891 36,336
The Sims 4 43,252 1,266,804 5,844
PUBG 26,724 484,528 10,360
Fortnite 14,702 267,598 6,109
Grand Theft Auto V 14,261 187,114 4,953

Interestingly, Minecraft was the most popular choice of disguise across both PC and mobile with over three million detections, followed by The Sims 4, PUBG, Fortnite, and Grand Theft Auto V. Most of the files distributed as these games are actually downloaders that drop more malware on infected PCs, or trojans that scour your mobile device for sensitive information.

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Kaspersky says that while it’s easy to get fooled into believing these are the real deal, it’s just as easy to weed them out if you do a little bit of research every time you decide to purchase or download a game.

For instance, simply reading some of the reviews on a title can reveal if other people have had a bad experience with it. And while stores like Epic Games will sometimes offer legitimate games for free, downloading those games from forums and torrent sites can infect your PC with cryptojacking malware, steal your data, or take over peripherals like your webcam and microphone.

Masthead credit: Victor Moussa | Shutterstock


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